The Jordan Web site project is a work in progress. We do not know, yet, whether the web site will meet our objectives - if it will provide a way for archaeologists and community people and other people to discuss the 'hurtful' histories of the Jordan Plantation in ways that are meaningful and positive. It is certainly true that what we've learned about collaborative content development could apply as easily to any other communicative environment - we could have employed many of the same strategies to plan a museum exhibit, for example.

However, preliminary data (gathered from discussion groups, feedback forms, and questionnaires) suggests that the web site may well provide a bridge from local conversations about the past to more global ones. Visitors have come to the site from all over the world, and individual responses have led to individual conversations between project collaborators and people elsewhere. People outside the 'local' conversation are starting to challenge the archaeological interpretations, and to create new interpretations of their own. We hope that these dispersed conversations will, over time, reveal new understandings about past and present that extend beyond what would be possible within a purely local 'presentation' or 'education' context.

As the project continues, we will continue to make changes to the web site, based on feedback from the interactive elements, and continue to encourage members of the local community to add and change content. For example, I am now in the midst of conducting in-person and on-line Internet workshops with school children in the community located nearest the plantation, using the school's very well-equipped computer labs as the site of these workshops. We have already identified a number of things we need to change, because of these workshops, and those changes will be implemented as the project continues. One change will actually provide us with the means to enhance a part of the site that is currently very under-developed - the 'Kids' section of the site. We have begun a long-term project with a local computer-literacy teacher in which her students (aged 13-15) will actually create the 'Kids' section of the web site, using material from other parts of the site to write new texts more suited to younger audiences. Archaeologists (Ken Brown, myself, and others) will give talks and real-site tours, review and discuss texts, etc., to ensure the new texts accurately represent the material presented elsewhere in the web site (much of which is now designed for somewhat older audiences). In this way the web site will provide opportunities to discuss, in real-time and virtual-time, what archaeology is and (sometimes) isn't. Communication about computers and archaeology will, if we are successful in developing this new phase of the project, translate into communication on computers about archaeology. We are hopeful that other similar projects will develop over time - and that they will continue to enhance what visitors from other parts of the world see on their computer screens.

The Net offers archaeologists new ways to speak and new ways to listen. It not only gives us an expanding new audience - huge numbers of potential conversations - it does so in ways that we are only starting to understand. We believe that the archaeology of the Levi Jordan Plantation can provide alternative visions, alternative analyses (West 1993, 30), that proceed from the particulars of one historical context to arrive at a place where contemporary people can use them to critique our social, moral and political lives. It is within conversations with each other that we will find our 'truths' about the past - and about the present. Within them, we may be able to use archaeology's fresh views of the past - with all their provisionality and contingency - to create new conversations and new 'paradigms of imagination' (Rorty 1991a, 94). Within them, we may begin to create a more relevant, democratic archaeology.

Go to the Levi Jordan Web Site


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Last updated: Wed Apr 28 1999